At Voya we don't use denim as we don't feel we can produce it in line with our ethics. That said, for many it is a wardrobe essential. So here is our guide to Denim to help you to decide for yourself about the renowned fabric.
Denim can be traced back to early production in Nimes, a textile city in the South of France. A diagonal weave technique (twill) produced a soft fabric made from natural yarns of linen, wool, or blended fabric, with locally sourced silk. The fabric was dyed with plant-derived indigo blue colors, and the famous 'de Nîmes' – or denim was born. The technique and fashion style were soon exported, copied, and quickly rose to popularity around the world.
Over time, the wool and linen blends were replaced with cotton. The cotton was first imported from Asia and Africa. Later, cotton became popular and today it is grown all over the world. Unfortunately, the industrial production processes associated with modern denim production have created several negative environmental and social impacts.
To begin with, cotton is a water-intensive crop with an estimated 1500 gallons (5600 liters) of water required to grow the 1.5 pounds (0.6 kg) of cotton needed to produce just one pair of jeans. The natural indigo dyes have been replaced with synthetic chemical dyes that enter waterways and are toxic to people and the environment. In Xintang, a city in China where one in three pairs of jeans sold globally are produced, the rivers are visibly blue and polluted, with tests confirming the presence of lead, copper, and cadmium at dangerous levels for both human and ecosystem health. The increasing use of buttons, zippers, and other metal accessories has also posed challenges for the recyclability of denim jeans.
On top of the environmental and human health impacts associated with producing each pair of jeans, the normality of 'fast fashion' and globalization has meant that the cost of jeans has gone down, while the environmental damage has gone up. More broadly, the fashion industry produces 10% of all carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world's water supply. While clothing production has more than doubled since 2000, it is estimated that approximately 85% of all textiles end up in landfills each year.
That's why, at Voya, we encourage slow fashion, we don't use denim as we don't feel its sustainably able to be produced, we make our trousers from natural fibers without excess treatment or damaging chemical processes.
That said, we know denim is a staple in most closets, so here are a few ways that you can support 'harm minimisation' from denim manufacturing and production and do your part to keep existing denim fabrics in circulation.
Forgo "fast fashion," which is generally cheaply made clothing, which is sold at a fairly low cost and is manufactured to last only one or two seasons.
Value and Repair
If you do have a multiple pairs of jeans in your possession, wear the denim for as long as possible. Take existing jeans in for repair when needed, instead of throwing them out.
Prefer buying Quality Denim Second Hand
Why not shop at a second hand or thrift store for your next pair of jeans? Or avoid buying a new pair of jeans and swap denim jeans with friends.
Buy Quality not Quantity
If you do need or want a new pair of jeans, choose quality and opt for durable items that will last years instead of months. Even better, choose jeans made from the linen or wool blends that reflect the original spirit of denim from the South of France, while at the same time knowing that they are more environmentally sustainable for people and the planet.
Know your brands
Not all denim brands are created equally. Spend time to research denim brands so you can be confident before buying, they are producing as ethically and sustainably as possible. Then you can feel good about who you are buying from.
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